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Trump’s own officials see him as ‘detrimental,’ explosive but anonymous essay claims

President Trump is facing explosive claims from within his own ranks, in an anonymous New York Times opinion piece. The editorial claims that many top administration officials are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst intentions." Yamiche Alcindor and Jeff Mason of Reuters join Judy Woodruff for more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we return now to our second lead story.

    The New York Times today took the extraordinary step of publishing an opinion essay by someone they identify as an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration.

    He or she claims that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently, from within to frustrate parts of his agenda, meaning the president, and his worst inclinations.

    "I would know. I am one of them" — end quote.

    And goes on to say — quote again — "The president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic."

    President Trump is denouncing this opinion piece. He's calling it a disgrace. And this is what he said as he met with a group of sheriffs at the White House today.

  • President Donald Trump:

    When you tell me about some anonymous source within the administration, probably who's failing, and probably here for all the wrong reasons now, and The New York Times is failing.

    So if the failing "New York Times" has an anonymous editorial — can you believe it? Anonymous. Meaning gutless, a gutless editorial. We're doing a great job.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now, we look more closely at this explosive declaration now with our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, and Jeff Mason. He is the White House correspondent for Reuters.

    We welcome — hello to both of you.

    I'm going to start with you, Yamiche.

    Fill us in. I mean, I just read a couple of quotes from this extraordinary statement. What more should we know from this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Judy, this was really an extraordinary, extraordinary statement. I have talked to Republican sources who say this is unprecedented.

    I want to walk you through just two more things that were in this op-ed. And I'm going to read them because they're just so stunning.

    The first is, "There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first."

    That's the first part of this.

    The second thing I want to point out is, this op-ed says, "The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency, but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility."

    So this is really someone who feels as though they need to speak out, and is really almost a call to the nation, saying that we, as a people, need to look at what President Trump is doing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jeff Mason, you have been covering the White House for a number of years. Have you seen anything like this before?

  • Jeff Mason:

    No, absolutely not. It's unprecedented to see something like this.

    And another piece of that op-ed that I think is unprecedented is the writer says that staff members were at one point considering engaging in the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, which would allow Cabinet members to work towards getting the president out of office, and then decided not to do that because they didn't want to spur a constitutional crisis.

    But admitting that was even a discussion at apparently the highest levels, according to this anonymous writer, is extraordinary as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, we heard the president's reaction, dismissing it all. What else is the White House saying?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president says that it was a gutless move, that whoever wrote this piece was really a coward.

    He just tweeted, I'm told recently, in the last couple minutes, the word treason.

    And I want to then walk you through a little bit of what the White House is saying officially. After the president spoke, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, released a statement.

    It says in part, "The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support the duly elected president of the United States. He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people. This coward should do the right thing and resign."

    Now, I should note that this is not a man or woman. The New York Times said that there was a tweet that was referring to this person as a he, but that that was a mistake. So we don't know the identity of this person.

    But it had to be someone high-level, because The New York Times wouldn't have gone out there and presented this piece anonymously if this wasn't someone who they trusted to have the will and know what was going on in the administration.

    But the White House apparently is basically saying, this is wrong, whether this person is, that they need to go. And they're saying that this was a completely — really, a betrayal of this White House.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jeff Mason, this comes on the day right after the Bob Woodward book has come out. This is a book, basically, he spent months and months talking to people inside the White House. It paints — paints a damning portrait of a White House in chaos, with people working, in essence, to do some of what you see in this — in this anonymous op-ed, to save the administration, to save the country from some of the president's decisions.

    What reactions are you picking up?

  • Jeff Mason:

    Well, that's exactly right, Judy.

    And the timing seems like it's not coincidental. At a time when the president and others in the White House are trying to discredit Bob Woodward and discredit his reporting and discredit his book, this op-ed, though anonymous — and it's worth pointing that out — seems to confirm the narrative that he has described in his book about, as you say, a White House in chaos and about staff who are concerned about the president's state of mind and the president's ability to do his job and his ability to comprehend issues that are critical for the nation's national — for the nation's security and for the world.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche, you have also been talking to some folks who used to work in the Trump administration, in the Trump White House. What are they saying about this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, I first want to remind viewers about your interview with Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who was at the time one of the most senior African-American women at the White House, or, I should say, the senior African-American in the White House at the time.

    Let's first listen to what she told you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You close out the book by writing, "Rest assured there's an army of people who oppose President Trump and his policies. They're working silently and tirelessly to make sure he doesn't cause harm to the republic. Many are in his party, his administration and even in his own family."

    Can you say who they are?

  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman:

    I prefer not. I think that it's important that, as they continue to do their work to make sure that further damage to this country is not done, that they do that without being exposed.

    And I'm very proud of the people who are working behind the scenes to make sure Donald Trump is not allowed to continue to lead this country in an unfit manner.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You can't identify…

  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman:

    I would not ever…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The first lady? Anyone?

  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman:

    … ever compromise them in this way, because they are working tirelessly to just really make sure that this country isn't damaged further.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, I spoke to Omarosa today.

    And she said that this op-ed is very, very important. She said that she wanted to make sure she put that in her book that there was a resistance of people working, because she wanted to make sure she winked at those people and said that they were strong and brave for staying within this administration.

    I should say, I also talked to another former senior Trump administration official. And that person said that there were times when Congress members were going to meet with the president that other senior officials would tell the lawmakers, whatever the president tells you in the Oval Office, it's not a deal. We're not committing to it. This White House is not going to commit, so just whatever President Trump says.

    And that was because they said that, when he would get in the room, he would make all sorts of promises, and then the White House and his staff around him would have to say, no, we can't do that, Mr. President.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jeff Mason, is this — again, this is another, shall we say, unprecedented thing in an administration with a string of unprecedented developments.

    Have had you picked up a drift of this before now with people — I mean, you and other reporters, because we talk to a lot of you, have certainly quoted people working in the administration quietly critical of the president and the people around him, but at this level?

  • Jeff Mason:

    Well, I think you can — you can look at that without even needing to use anonymous sources.

    Look at — let's take the example of Russia. Before the president's trip to Helsinki and Europe last — or in July, I guess it was, his advisers came out and said on the record that he would raise the issue of Russia's malign activity.

    And then we saw the Helsinki press conference, where he didn't do that, and then tried to pull some of that back when he was back at the White House, and then sort of is going back and forth.

    And, again, it raises that disconnect between what the president will say, whether it's in public, or whether it's to someone like Vladimir Putin, or whether it's to lawmakers meeting at the White House, and then what his staff are saying and what his staff are doing.

    So there is a clear disconnect there that really affects all levels of what is going on in the West Wing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just finally, very quickly, Yamiche, there are Republicans on Capitol Hill, most of whom have stuck with this president, they support this president, they have defended him.

    Are you picking up any sense that that support is shifting in some way?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, I have talked to some officials, including high-ranking RNC people who are looking at this, and they say that, so far, they don't see a shift in this, that, really, if Republican can continue to hold on to the House and the Senate, and do the business and pass policies that conservatives are proud of, and then put people in the Supreme Court that they're proud of, that they will continue to support this president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Jeff Mason, life goes on at the White House.

  • Jeff Mason:

    Life does indeed go on at the White House.

    I think you can expect to see President Trump getting agitated about this. You will see that. We have seen that already with his tweets and his response in the East Room. But I suspect that this, combined with the fallout from the Bob Woodward book, will continue to drive the narrative for White House staff and for this president for some time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jeff Mason with Reuters, our own Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks.

  • Jeff Mason:

    Thank you.

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